Musical theater on the rise in China

By Zhang Lulu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 30, 2017
Adjust font size:

Chinese version of the Broadway musical "Jekyll and Hyde" [Photo courtesy CC Live] 

Sowing seed

The result was a Chinese adaptation of "Jekyll & Hyde" that received a fairly good response from audiences and scored 7.8 out of 10 on China's ratings website Douban. Although many consider musical theater as a niche interest in China, some industry insiders say this year is a boom year for the art form, with more than 15 shows -- both imported and original works -- playing throughout the country. In comparison, however, Broadway put on 45 new theater productions during the 2016/17 season, including 20 new musicals, according to

Liu Lingfei, a well-established stage performer who plays the eponymous role in "Jekyll & Hyde," said he was able to audition for every musical production in China simply because "there are not many of them every year."

According to a report released earlier this year, the box office revenues of musicals in China kept fluctuating in recent years. Nationwide ticket revenue grew by almost 50 percent to 226 million yuan (US$33.94 million) in 2015, but the next year it saw a drop of 23 percent to 174 million yuan, with more than 40 percent drop in original productions. In comparison, musicals performed on Broadway generated US$1.367 billion in 2016 according to The Broadway League, more than 50 times that of the Chinese box office.

Zhou said the Chinese market for musical theater is still far from developed, thus it is important for her production to be good enough to hold the interest of every audience member.

"(Putting on musicals in China) is like preaching, like sowing seeds. There is not much soil to keep the plants growing, but we must keep cultivating the seeds and keep producing good works," she said.

Zhou and the rest of the cast and crew believe the key to popularizing musicals in China is to turn it into a good business.

Though many actors often take more pride in the sheer artistic value, Liu is unapologetic about thinking the show has to make money.

"Musicals are just like [other commercial products]," he said. "The more they are commercialized, the better." The actor bemoaned that many Chinese considered going to theater performances a sophisticated, buttoned-up affair, which he believed prevents the genre from gaining more popularity.

Liu said he also found that winning over loyal fans contributes to the overall development of Chinese musical theaters. Some of his fans, who endearingly gave him the nickname "Master Liu," bought the tickets to every session of his month-long performance in Shanghai.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
   Previous   1   2   3   Next  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from